In the American popular vocabulary, few words have been as misunderstood and maligned as "disco." Emerging in the 1970s, it began the decade as a gritty urban subculture fueled by a heady soundtrack of rhythmic recorded music, and rode a wave of post-60s hedonism and progressive social change to mainstream dominance. It ended the decade in flames on the playing field of Comiskey Park, the effigial backlash of white America raging against its libertine glamour and (by that time) formulaic, overexposed music.
Along the way, "disco" also became shorthand for the musical genre itself and, while anathema in early-80s mainstream America, it kept spinning unperturbed throughout the rest of the world, mutating into Post-Disco, Euro Disco, Italo Disco, Boogie, Garage, and, eventually, House Music. Today, nearly 50 years after David Mancuso's seminal Loft parties on Manhattan's Lower East Side, disco is still vital. It is the fountainhead for modern electronic dance music, spawning or inspiring a litany of sub-genres, including Disco House (sometimes called Filter House), French House, and the currently en vogue Nu-Disco.
Personally, I have never really been a fan of categories; for me, there is just good or bad music. So, in curating this "Nu-Disco" chart going forward, rather than focusing strictly on one granular musical trend, I will aim to encompass various sounds that pay homage to the roots of dance music. To provide somewhat of a roadmap, this will loosely include some Indie Dance, Deep House, sample-based Jackin' House, edits and re-rubs of vintage Disco and Funk tunes, and straight-up modern electronic soul music. I will also dig into the crates and drop some classics on you, from the arcane to the familiar.
So let's get to it!
1. "Summerdays" – Mousse T. [Peppermint Jam]
Yes, I realize it's November and I'm starting off the list with a track called "Summerdays." You can't stop me! Especially when the music is this good. Trendy sub-genres come and go ("Future" this and "Nu" that), but for over 20 years now Mousse T. and Peppermint Jam have focused on "timeless," releasing a steady stream of quality electronic music with soul. Anybody remember this joint? It still sounds amazing! Anyway, it's very gratifying to see them still bringing the heat after all this time.
2. "Phoenix" – Tiger & Woods [T&W Records]
Tiger & Woods return with "On The Green Again," their first new studio album since their 2011 debut. The last five years has seen them DJ all over the world and become standard bearers for the so-called Nu-Disco/Indie Dance scene. The time away from the studio has been good for them as they bring some fresh new influences to their signature retro-futuristic electronic sound. The new LP is loaded with fun jams; it's hard to pick a favorite, but laid-back groover "Phoenix" drops a funky surprise in the back half that is a sure-fire head-nodder. "On The Green Again" is out now and will see a lot of action well into 2017.
3. "Deep Fry (Fouk Remix)" – Snacks [House Of Disco]
I'm an admitted sucker for the lo-fi. If a track sounds poorly quantized with some raw drums and dirty filters, I'm probably all about it. Imagine, then, my delight on this slab right here. Berlin-based newcomers Snacks (Rene Corbett & Aljoscha Babel) deliver more rump-shaking goodies on Burnin', an EP dripping with the kind of grungy disco and house they are quickly becoming known for. Dutch duo Fouk, sizzling with releases for Heist and Razor-N-Tape, hand in a funked-up take on "Deep Fry," which emphasizes the track's woozy synth pads and beefs up the rhythm with some swinging, off-kilter drum programming.
4. "Last Knockers" – Crazy P [Paper Recordings]
Reunited and it feels so good! Crazy P (né "Penis") return to where it all started for them, contributing a track to the 200th release of the venerable Paper Recordings. "Last Knockers" sounds like a B-side from their excellent Walk Dance Talk Sing, one of 2015's most overlooked albums. Our ears are treated to their trademark slinky disco-soul with Danielle Moore's sultry vox floating over the top. At 5:45 a funky clavinet drops in and sets the cruise control for the sunset.
5. "Somethin' Wit Jazz" (The Planty Herbs Dub)" – Mr. V [Razor-N-Tape]
EVERYBODY is rocking this 10th Anniversary re-release of Mr. V's hip-house jam, largely on the strength of the super-dope Jimpster remixes. But don't sleep on this nasty re-working from The Netherlands' Planty Herbs.
6. "Deeper (J&M Brothers Souls Remix)" – Soul Minority [Kolour Recordings]
Detroit's Kolour Recordings is at a fever pitch right now with quality releases. Here comes another gem: a collabo between Spain's Soul Minority and J&M Brothers on the remix tip. I don't know who the vocalist is, but it sounds like they nabbed her out of a New Jersey mall circa 1987. And I'm definitely not mad about that. You could easily hear her on a Latin Rascals record from back in the day. Great song and performance and the solid production we've come to expect from J&M Bros.
7. "Feel Like Getting Down" – DJ Mes [Mood Funk]
Yay Area DJ/Producer DJ Mes rinses a Billy Ocean sample to superb effect on this jacker for Angelo Ferreri's Mood Funk label.
8. "I Gotta Feeling" – Midnight Magic [Soul Clap]
A reminder: disco was made by bands. Midnight Magic, the Brooklyn-via-LA ensemble helmed by DFA Records alums Andrew Raposo and Morgan Wiley, are back with a forthcoming new album for Soul Clap's eponymous label. Lead single "I Gotta Feeling" blends synthetic and organic ingredients – dubbed-out horn flourishes, acidy bass bits, and Tiffany Roth's urgent, multitracked vocal – into a tasty soultronic stew. It should whet your appetite for "Free From Your Spell," their full-length main course due November 18th.
9. "Givin' My Love" – Mark Funk & Danny Cruz [Guesthouse]
It may not be the most original record to sample ("All This Love That I'm Giving" by Gwen McCrae), and let's be honest – Cassius owns it. But these dudes do it justice, delivering more of a re-edit of the proper song with a clever little hat tip to the Cassius hook that filters up in the breakdown.
10. CLASSIC! "Love Sensation (Shep Pettibone Remix)" – Loleatta Holloway [Gold Mind/Salsoul]
Possibly the most-sampled record of all time, from this to this. In fact, sampling this record has literally created recording careers in dance music – like this. And listen close ...... you hear that? That's the sound of Loleatta getting raped yet again on recent tracks from Andrea Oliva to Funkatron. Hasn't she had enough? So I had to shine a light on the o.g. version. Great songwriting and producing (Dan Hartman), arranging (Norman Harris), and engineering (Tom Moulton). The gold standard of female vocal performances. And the greatest remixer of all time. OKAY?!